Fostering college students’ design thinking in a knowledge-building environment

  • Pei-Yi Lin
  • Huang-Yao HongEmail author
  • Ching Sing Chai
Research Article


Knowledge building is an innovative pedagogy aiming to transform students into expert-like knowledge workers. The purpose of this study was to foster teacher-education students’ design performance (i.e., observation, synthesis, ideation and prototypes) in a knowledge-building environment. The participants were 38 college students from a Taiwanese university. They were randomly assigned to eight groups. Each group used the Knowledge Forum—a computer-supported collaborative knowledge-building environment—to develop and discuss the design products of their choice. Data analysis focused on the groups’ online knowledge-building activities, online design thinking processes, and the relationship between them. In general, knowledge-building activities facilitated students’ design thinking. Specifically, we considered the extent to which student groups’ sustained online engagement and increased knowledge had a major impact on their design performance. Ways of applying knowledge-building principles to foster effective design processes are discussed.


Design thinking Knowledge building Knowledge forum 



We own special thanks to the students for their participation in this study and the research opportunities enabled by their work.


Support for writing this article was provided, in part, from Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), Taiwan, grants MOST 104-2511-S-004-001-MY3 & MOST 106-2511-S-004-008-MY2. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of the MOST.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Dept. of EducationNational Chengchi UniversityTaipeiTaiwan
  3. 3.Dept. of Curriculum and InstructionThe Chinese University of Hong KongSha TinHong Kong

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